Please note: absentjustice.com is a work in progress: last edited in June 2021.
All of the main events as quoted on this website are supported by copies of the original documents (confirmation data) which are linked in the text: for example, FrontPage Part One File No/1, Main Evidence File No/3 or Prologue Evidence File 1-A to 1-C. Clicking on these links with your cursor will automatically open a PDF of the exhibit. By using this method and following the various file nos discussed in our various pages – see menu bar above, i.e., Absentjustice – Preface, Manipulating the Regulator and Absentjustice Part 1, 2 and 3 – you will be able to verify our story. Without those documents, most people would really struggle to believe that the Casualties of Telstra (COT) claimants have actually lived through these appalling events.
Who would ever have believed (without the exhibits to prove our case) that a small group of business owners was forced into arbitration with advice from the government that they would receive all necessary documentation to support their claims, only to find those documents never arrived until years after their arbitrations were finalised. We have no alternative but to include the exhibits the way we have. This is truly an unbelievable story.
My name is Alan Smith. This is the story of my battle with a telecommunications giant and the Australian Government, a battle that has twisted and turned, since 1992, through elected governments, government departments, regulatory bodies, the judiciary, and the Australian telecommunications giant, Telstra, or Telecom, as it was known when this story started. The quest for justice continues to this day.
My story started in 1987 when I decided my life at sea, where I had spent the previous 20 or so years, was over. I needed a new land-based occupation to see me through to my retirement years and beyond. Of all the places in the world I had visited, I chose to make Australia my home.
My business is hospitality, and I had always dreamed of running a school holiday camp. Imagine my delight when I saw the Cape Bridgewater Holiday Camp and Convention Centre advertised for sale in The Age. It was located in rural Victoria, near the small maritime port of Portland. Everything seemed perfect. I performed my “due diligence” to ensure that the business was sound; or at least, all of the due diligence I was aware I needed to perform. Who would have guessed that I had to check whether the phones work? Within a week of taking over the business, I knew I had a problem. I was hearing from customers and suppliers alike that they had tried to call and couldn’t get through to me.
Yes, that’s right. I had a business to run and a phone service that was, at best, unreliable, and at worst, just not there at all. Of course, we lost business as a result.
And so, my saga begins. It has been a quest to get a working phone at the property. On the way, I have received some compensation for business losses and many promises that the problem is now resolved. It has not been resolved to this day. I sold the business in 2002 and subsequent owners have suffered a similar fate to me.
Other independent business people similarly affected by poor telecommunications have joined me on my journey. We are known as the Casualties of Telecom, or the COT cases. All we want is for Telecom/Telstra to admit to our various problems, fix them all, then pay compensation for our losses. A working phone: is that too much to ask?
It was my constant complaints to AUSTEL, and my Federal member of parliament the Hon David Hawker MP, that finally bore fruit when, for the first time in this story, Telstra investigators came to Cape Bridgewater on 3 June 1993. At last, I thought, I would be able to speak directly to people who knew what they were talking about.
I should have known better. It was just another case of ‘No fault found.’ We spent some considerable time ‘dancing around’ a summary of my phone problems. Their best advice for me was to keep doing exactly what I had been doing since 1989, keeping a record of all my phone faults. I could have wept. Finally, they left.
A little while later, in my office I found that Aladdin had inadvertently left behind his treasures: the Briefcase Saga was about to unfold.
The briefcase was not locked, so I opened it to find a document staring at me titled ‘SMITH, CAPE BRIDGEWATER’. After five gruelling years fighting the evasive monolith of Telstra, being told various lies along the way, here was possibly the truth, from an inside perspective.
The first thing that rang bells was a Telstra document dated 2 July 1992, concerning the Portland Ericsson AXE telephone exchange which stated:
“Our local technicians believe that Mr Smith is correct in raising complaints about incoming callers to his number receiving a Recorded Voice Announcement saying that the number is disconnected.
“They believe that it is a problem that is occurring in increasing numbers as more and more customers are connected to AXE.” (See False Witness Statement File No 3-A)
Another document revealed that Telstra knew that at least one major fault they recorded in March 1992 had actually lasted for at least eight months — not the three weeks they later told the COT arbitrator. Here was Telstra at its worse or was there more to come.
It is clear from Folios C04006, C04007 and C04008 Telstra already knew my phone complaints were valid on 3 June 1993, when they inadvertently left their briefcase of treasures. These three documents headed TELECOM SECRET (see Home Page Part Two Evidence File No/8 states:
“Legal position – Mr Smith’s service problems were network related and spanned a period of 3-4 years. Hence Telecom’s position of legal liability was covered by a number of different acts and regulations. … In my opinion Alan Smith’s case was not a good one to test Section 8 for any previous immunities – given his evidence and claims. I do not believe it would be in Telecom’s interest to have this case go to court.
“Overall, Mr Smith’s telephone service had suffered from a poor grade of network performance over a period of several years; with some difficulty to detect exchange problems in the last 8 months.”
And so our story begins.
This is the story of a group of ordinary small-business people fighting one of the largest companies in the country. The story of how for years Telstra failed to address the many phone problems that were affecting the capacity of the COT Four to run their businesses, telling them ‘No fault found,’ when documents on this website show they were found to have existed as the following government records show (see AUSTEL’s Adverse Findings, at points 10, to 212)
How Telstra and its legal arbitration defence team perverted the course of justice by using such dubious strategies as intercepting relevant faxes Open Letter File No/12, and File No/13, failing to deliver crucial FOI documents (or delivering them months and even years too late, often so highly censored that little intelligible remained), even destroying documentary evidence and fabricating evidence.
How central points our claim at arbitration was ignored by the arbitrator and how no amount of effort to have these points addressed bore any fruit.
How, in the course of all these travesties, the regulatory bodies — Austel (for the government) and the TIO (for the carriers) — failed to exercise any control over Telstra to the point where they could reasonably be seen as acting in concert.
Together, these travesties spell a break-down of justice, way out of proportion to the problem we began with — people asking that their phone services be guaranteed to work to a reasonable standard so that they can reliably conduct their businesses.
Each of the COT members assumed, as most telephone users would assume, that their phone faults would be quite easily found and fixed by Telstra’s skilled technicians. But ‘No fault found’ was the constant refrain, and the problems continued unabated throughout the course of our arbitrations, and for years afterwards, with disastrous effects on our businesses. This seemed incomprehensible: everyone had a phone, the system is supposed to work for everyone. What was going on?
And why did it seem everyone was protecting Telstra, turning a blind eye to what was unlawful behaviour? Withholding important discovery documents in an arbitration procedure is unlawful. Tampering with evidence in the arbitration is unlawful (see Tampering With Evidence – TF200). Relying on defence documents that are known to be flawed, in arbitration, is unlawful. Phone tapping of conversations without a warrant is unlawful. Someone within Telstra must have authorised this criminal conduct. The TIO, and Austel often enough, refused to act; Members of Parliament when in Opposition were happy to provide support for the COT cause, but as soon as the government was theirs, that support vanished. No-one was prepared to make Telstra accountable. It was enough to make the most level-headed person suspect conspiracies.
The depths to which Telstra stooped in its conduct with the COT claimants seems to suggest just how little confidence Telstra had in its own case. But why was it so fearful of being found liable? What was the worst that could happen if our claims were vindicated? What was it trying to conceal?
For most rural Australian business operators, running a telephone-dependent business was not like it is today. When our story began, most rural businesses were not using the internet, email or mobile phones. Checking emails and mobile phones at the start of each working day on a regular basis was not an option. Mobile phones did not work in most rural locations and mobile black-spots, even in the city outskirts, were common.
It was not until the late 1990s that this new technology became a common way to run a business. However, the COT cases, who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in arbitration preparation fees in their attempt to have reliable telephone services, found that Telstra had not fixed their phone problems at all: nothing had changed. This is really where our COT story begins: not when we first registered our phone problems with Telstra in 1987/88, but in the 1990s and early 2000s, when it became evident the problems were, in fact, getting worse, as our story shows. We COTs were duped by the government into believing that by entering its highly legalistic government-endorsed arbitration process, the legality of the process would ensure the arbitrations were squeaky clean.
However, this process ensured that, as Telstra had on retainer at least 37 of Australia’s largest legal firms, NONE of the COT cases could approach those legal firms for assistance, as recorded in government records available on our website.
What became incontrovertibly clear from documents Telstra released to us years later — was that Telstra well knew its systemic problems, and it knew how to solve them in rural areas, where many of the COT cases businesses were located. Even worse, as our Misleading and Deceptive Conduct File 4-A to 4-L segment shows, Telstra was still using known-deficient equipment in its telephone exchanges – equipment that other countries had long ago removed.
By clicking on Absentjustice.com – Preface, and other tabs on the above menu bar, you will be able to judge for yourself the validity of our claims, as well as whether you should purchase our story directly from our new webpage.
Please read our publication when it becomes available online, around June 2021.
The matters discussed on absentjustice.com are said in the public interest and therefore are made in accordance with the Victorian Defamation Act 2005, Division 1: Defamation and the General Law (see www.legislation.vic.gov.au/Domino/Web-Note).
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